Language, politics & identity: the case of Muslim Pontic Greek in Turkey

Identity is an important factor in social interaction. There are various types of identity: First of all, we distinguish between an individual’s identity and group identity. Within these categories we have concepts like ethnic identity, cultural identity, linguistic identity, national identity, and political identity. Initially, the paper tries to define identity and the identity constructing factors. Second, be it at an individual or a group level, identity influences the way people speak as outlined in Accomodation Theory (Giles 1984). Which factors are influencing identity? A states language policy might be one of these factors but should not work in any case. So which conditions allow a state’s policy to have an impact on the people’s identity? And how could this impact be measured? A good way to detect how a state’s policy is reciprokated in identity and language use of a group is to investigate the attitudes of speakers towards their language.

The paper aims at investigating the interface of individuum – state – identity by means of the example of Muslim Pontic Greek (MPG). MPG is a Greek based minority language spoken at the Black Sea coast in north-eastern Turkey. In the talk, I will show that Turkish language policy and the Turkish national concept of the so called ‘upper identity’ highly influence the attitudes of the MPG speakers as the community has to deal with conflicting attitudes oscillating between connectedness to the heritage of their ancestors and their affiliation to the Turkish state. Negative attitudes towards MPG are, among other factors, threatening the vitality of the language.

The overt and covert attitudes of MPG speakers were examined within an attitudinal survey which has been carried out in Istanbul and Çaykara in February and August 2014.



Giles, H. 1984. The dynamics of speech accommodation. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 46.

Haig, G. 2003) The invisibilisation of Kurdish: the other side of language planning in Turkey. In: Conermann, S. & Haig, G. (eds.), Die Kurden: Studien zu ihrer Sprache, Geschichte und Kultur. Schenefeld: EB Verlag. [accessed 13.10.2013]

Tabouret-Keller, A. 1997. Language and Identity. In: Florian Coulmas (ed.), The Handbook of Sociolinguistics. Blackwell Publishing. 315-326.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s